Posts tagged ‘travis smith’

September 15, 2012

HoW3 Book Ready

Sandra advises that the book is just about ready to go after a few minor tweaks, and it looks terrific! It feels so good to have something of such high quality to take one back to a blissful few days with imagination running rampant and being surrounded by good friends, good food, and great writing.

P.S.: You know you can have your bio updated at any time, and this blog remains active.

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July 31, 2012

HoW 3

Spirit Lake, Perry, Kansas: 26 – 29 July 2012

The House of Writers, better known as HoW, had its third get-together at Spirit Lake. The first was in New Orleans on Labor Day weekend, 2010. The second was at Blowing Rock, N.C., on Bastille Day weekend, 2011. We enjoyed writing to prompts, reading work in group sessions, and challenging each other in games of Ex Libris among other activities. The setting around the lake was tranquil and inspirational, and an enjoyable publication should be forthcoming.
I regret that we only get to do this once a year. The fifty-two Spots preceding this post and featuring the work of HoW authors writing to themes were meant to serve as a bridge between meetings.
Those in attendance this time around were:

Bolton Carley
Bolton’s pieces can be found on 6S and her personal Bolton Carley’s Blog at wordpress.

Sandra Davies
Sandra Davies is a writer and printmaker, occasionally combining both disciplines as in ‘Edge: curve, arc, circle’ and ‘One that got away’ the precursor to four more novels. Recent poetry has been published in Pigeon Bike’s ‘Beyond the Broken Bridge’ and more is forthcoming from Scribble and Scatter. Sandra’s main writing blog is lines of communication from which links to printmaking blogs can be accessed.

Ed Dean
Ed Dean grew up in Dearborn and Highland Park, Michigan until being drafted into the army and subsequently into the N.S.A. Having been in sales and marketing most of his life, Mr. Dean is now semi-retired and spends much of his time writing. His own experiences in the military, traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe, and as a wine enthusiast provided much of the background to his book. Mr. Dean has three books in the works, including a sequel to The Wine Thief.

Mike Handley
A career journalist, artist and member of the zipper club, Mike mourns sausage made from non-flying things. His musings can be seen at Handlets, and his paintings at Mike Handley Wildlife Artist.

Dorothy Pendleton
Dorothy has a solid grounding in the liberal arts, and can tell you which German preposition takes a dative ending, which an accusative, and which either/or (It’s all about movement and occupying space), but is mystified by how an engineer can go through the day with such faith in fact. She has just moved to Portland, Oregon — a lovely city with a young vibe and very genuine people. Some of her work can be read on Thinking Ten.

Jen Schneider
Jen is an English teacher. Married. She is currently writing a young adult novel and finding daily inspiration through her family and students. Her site is Life on Shuffle.

Kristine E. Shmenco
Kristine is married to a patient rust farmer and says she’s working on being a writer who’s still learning the art and diplomacy of commenting to posts. We say she’s far too humble. Her site is Mirrors * Doorknobs * Dreams at wordpress

Gita Smith
Gita posts flash fiction at 6S and longer work at MuDJoB and LitFire. She blogs at Oh, Fine, Just Fine.

Travis Smith
Travis Smith lives in North Carolina where his day job as an ecologist supports his desire to write fiction. More of his work can be found on 6S and T10.

Michael D. Brown
Currently teaching English in Mexico, Michael maintains MuDJoB and MudSpots (and various other muddy projects) featuring his own and the work of other writers, and would love more than anything to be preparing for the next HoW, right here, right now, but will wait (impatiently) to be with his friends in the flesh next summer.


July 30, 2012

A Year of MudSpots


achilles’ heel amy hale auker aphorisms beauty benefit bill floyd bill lapham bolton carley brian michael barbeito camera candles burning catch up compunction darkness ed dean elliott cox fables gita smith golden grey johnson heavy jen schneider jk davies joe gensle kristine shmenco light michael brown mike handley mirrors need nicole hirschi numbers paul de denus peace renewal revolver robert crisman sam raddon sandra davies smoke stolen travis smith unwritten rules wee small hours within

July 21, 2012

Spot 052: The Last Dance

DECEMBER
by Sandra Davies

A school-friend’s fourteenth birthday party in a too-large-for-the-numbers wooden-floored church hall. Nineteen sixty, the year that a brown two-piece – the words run together to become ‘toupees’ – a pleated skirt and a boxy sort of short-sleeved top, was the only thing to wear. (The only way I would have worn it since our school uniform was brown and the colour never did suit me.) My version (cheap for sure) had a unique additional glisten as if briefly dunked in petrol and imperfectly allowed to dry. The pleats were too narrow as well.
But she, this friend called Jennifer, she knew boys. Boys. From Bishop Stortford College. Posh, well-spoken, rich. Smooth-skinned and lustrous-eyed. Exotic ones I only ever caught a glimpse of from the top deck of our rickety school bus. In the summer they wore beautiful scarlet blazers, pale straw boaters with a dark ribbon round the crown. God-like. Of a different breed to anything we had in our village, where most were of the agricultural ilk.
As were my social skills. Knock-kneed dumb ineptness, uncertain smile and a total lack of quips or speed of mind with which to greet their quick-flit confidence.
I was kissed in a cupboard by a boy called Mark.
And Ben E. King’s ‘Save the last dance for me’ played on repeat all evening.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

THE QUESTIONS OF 52
by Bill Lapham

We are never alerted to the fact that what we are about to do will be the last time we ever do it. If we were, what would we do? Try harder? Seek to enjoy the sensation more? Get drunk? Stay sober? Not do the thing we’re about to do? Do more of it, for a longer time, if we can? Savor the taste? Eat a hot dog? Wash it down with a gin and tonic? Listen closer? Tune ourselves to the wavelength of the experience better? Smell more roses? Piss off more popes?

What if this was my last Mudspot submission, the last thing I ever wrote in my life? Have I said the thing I’d want you to always remember?

Yes, I think so.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


OUR LAST DANCE
by Jen Schneider

For Denise

“It doesn’t look good,” the doctor said the words I had been dreading. Remission, better, improvement, hope: those were words that I prayed for every day. That was the language of optimism that I longed for.

But it wasn’t. “It’s spread to her brain.”

My mind was in absolute turmoil. My daughter was dying. She’d never have children, my grandchildren, or walk down the aisle. I’d never dance with my beautiful daughter on her wedding day.

Diana’s boyfriend, Peter, was in the waiting room when I left the doctor’s office, holding my 34-year-old daughter’s hand. “Thirty four.” I thought. She’ll be buried before her thirty-fifth birthday.

Peter ran his hand through his hair and dropped to his knee. “Diana?” His eyes told me what question he was going to ask. “Will you marry me?”

“Peter,” my daughter’s eyes filled with tears. “I can only promise to love you as long as we shall live, and well,” she stammered, “that won’t be much longer.”

“The rest of your life is all I ask, but I will love you for the rest of mine,” he said.

As my daughter murmured her affirmative reply through her muffled tears, I prayed that I would have that last dance with my little girl on her wedding day.

Just days later, if only for a moment, I took my daughter in my arms, lifting her from her wheelchair on her wedding day. I never thought I’d see this moment. It would be our last dance.

See Authors page for Jen’s bio.

TAKES TWO TO TANGO
by Bolton Carley

Wiggling in under the covers, Tony pushed his way over nearer to Tanya. Fully engrossed, Tanya paid little attention as she cranked up the volume another notch in an attempt to hear the TV better over his rustling sheets.
Tony rolled over, throwing his arm over Tan’s flat stomach. Tan sighed and squirmed further up out of the blankets glued to the TV. To no avail, Tony edged over even closer to Tanya hoping for a quick rendezvous, the kind that puts a man into a deep sleep. Having none of it, Tanya ignored Tony for her favorite show caught up in the fox trot, the tango, and a hip-hop number in which she marveled at their flexibility. The way the girl slithered under her partner who did push-ups symbolizing a roll in the hay, oh, how Tanya envied their sex appeal. Tony nuzzled Tanya’s ear, noticing her breathing change at the sexual innuendo of the final piece of the night.
Tony had no love for So You Think You Can Dance. He pretty much referred to it as two hours of misery, but every once in awhile the last dance was a risqué number that put his girl in “the mood.” Leaning in, Tony kissed the crease in Tan’s neck making her giggle like a bubble gum wrapper joke. Grabbing the remote, Tony clicked off the TV and whispered like a teenage boy in a car backseat, “Wanna make that last dance a reality?”

See Authors page for Bolton’s bio.


THE COMPETITION
by Travis Smith

Tears streamed down Tracy’s cheek, dripping from her face to fall towards the river winding through the rocks below. The months of planning: choosing a dress, picking a hair style, buying the perfect jewelry, the hours in the gym to look her best. All wasted.
This was supposed to be her debut. Yes, the ball was opened to all of the debutantes in the area. Yes, the ball was to raise money for charity, but she was the reigning Miss Jackson County. She was the class president. She should be the center of the ball. Bobby Marcum should be dancing with her, not that red-headed bitch from Knoll County.
“Isn’t it beautiful out here?”
Tracy turned towards the voice.
“I can’t believe he is dancing with me,” the girl went on. “It is like a dream come true.” She spun gracefully, her white dress flaring out.
Her scream lasted only a moment.
Yes, it is like a dream come true, Tracy thought.
The girls red hair was visible splayed out over the rocks where she had landed and Tracy watched as all sparks of life went extinct in the broken body below. She turned towards the sound of music starting again and carefully dabbed the tears from her eyes.
What luck, she thought seeing that no one was around. It may look like an accident.
She smoothed her dress as she walked inside, intent on being Bobby Marcum’s partner for the next dance.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

THE LAST DANCE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

She floated up slowly from the depths, broke the surface of sleep, reluctant to leave her dreams. She dipped below the surface to look for his eyes. Reached out to find his arms, felt his waist and hard ribs beneath her fingertips. A smile for her alone. Music, faint, rose up and surrounded her, buoyed her back to the surface. It was time to leave him, to rise and walk into sunlight. She smiled beneath the covers knowing whatever stumbled her during the day, she could close her eyes and hear that music and rise.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.


THE LAST KISS
by Sandra Davies

The last dance.
The last kiss.
The last time he touched me.
That was the night before. He said he did not want me at the station. Said it would be too distressing, he did not want to show himself up as weak in front of his pals.
I thought they would surely be feeling the same way, saying goodbye to their own best girls, wives, children. Mothers, too though they would be brave for them. More futile in a way because mothers know more death, about damage done to bodies. Know that that glory is too close to gory.
But I wanted to see him one last, last time.
So I went to the station. The high glass dome almost hidden behind drifting sepia-coloured smoke, perfect for the desperate sadness of the day. Tangible, cloying, khaki, the almost snot-green smoke from poor grade coal. Enough on its own to clog the throat, sting the eyes.
Not all khaki. Over by the ABC caff there was a dozen or so in dusty air-force blue.
Blue interspersed with the drabness of too-many-seasons-worn winter-weight woollen coats.
And even had there been more than a dozen he would have been easy to spot, at six feet three. Plus the gold of his hair, suddenly spot-lit by the reluctant emergence of the November sun.
As was the similarly-coloured hair of the woman he had his arms around. As were the two blonde children clinging onto the hem of his jacket.

See Authors page again for Sandra’s bio.

“WHY ARE YOU CALLING?”
by Gita M. Smith

Why are you calling me here? I told you never to call me here.
I didn’t know what else to do.
There are a hundred other things to do like wait until tomorrow night. You are impossible!
It’s important and I thought you’d want to –
What I ‘want to’ do is hang up and forget you bothered me. Now go –
Stewart! Listen to me. I can’t meet you tomorrow night. I have to cancel.
What do you mean? Thursday is our night. We agreed it would always take precedence.
Stewart, I just can’t this week.
Can’t? Why would you make any other plans? Do you know the inconvenience our arrangement has caused me over the years? The excuses I’ve had to make? How dare you schedule something else for Thursday?
I didn’t schedule anything. That is, not exactly.
Malina, you’re not making sense. Spit it out. This call has gone on long enough.
I’ve met someone. I don’t feel comfortable keeping Thursday.
You what? You met someone since last Thursday?
Earlier, actually.
How could you do this to me?
You’re married, Stewart. I don’t see that I’ve done anything to you.
Malina! Thursdays are what I live for! Please don’t do this.
I deserve someone, Stewart. Someone full time, I mean.
I’ll fall apart, Malina. Please! Please meet me tomorrow. Just one last time? To say goodbye? Our usual place?
Just once?
Just once. And Malina, thank you… for calling.

See Authors page again for Gita’s bio.


HAPPY TRAILS
by Paul de Denus

To distract myself, I escape out the window.

Clouds flirt and tango. Panache brassieres, full and fleeting boogie overhead, such happy pillows on which to bury one’s dream. Along the distant telephone wires, a musical staff of black birds line dance. The sky is but a light blue slip.

Walking up the sky, upper winds now sheer-shape the clouds Disney-esque, forming mickey mouse ears and goofy stovetop hats. A package of hard rain lands against the window banging a heavy beat but I’m whistling Happy Trails and everything’s clear. As the billowing ballet waltzes slowly across the promenade, the dark curtain pulls away and I remember I don’t like to dance. I don’t like anything about dance; I’m afraid I don’t know how.

My room is warm and in shadow, my bed feels like its floating, sleepy head on those happy pillows. Next to me, I notice a tiny dancer swing low on a gossamer cloud.
“Time for your medication,” the tiny dancer sings. Her eyes crinkle seductively, softening her small face.
“Would you like to dance?” she asks.
“You know I don’t want to,” I say.
“I’ll be gentle.”
Hooking my arm, we skirt along the hem of the horizon.

See Authors page again for Paul’s bio.

ENDTITLE
by Michael D. Brown

Ed waited all night to dance with the attractive brunette with the friendly smile. She beamed when she arrived, then was immediately surrounded by the cadre of clear-complexioned, well-built young men who exuded their wealth. What chance had he with his acne scars, and awkwardness in making interesting conversation? They had little in common outside of enthusiasm. He avoided his usually stealthy drink at snack time in order to maintain a clear outlook. From the other side of the room he gazed feeling her personality wafting across. She was clearly a star. He recalled once discussing the weather with someone and having something green stuck to his teeth because that woman had laughed in an odd superior way, staring at the words leaving his mouth. He kept licking his teeth and afterwards checked in a mirror but found nothing. His insecurity was his greatest flaw.
Now at the end of the evening, he danced like the trouper he dreamed of being. He was Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and a bit of John Travolta rolled into one. He convinced himself it was worth waiting for the other guys to have their turn, so he could outshine them. Still, he wished for an audience in his moment, and the mop he gallantly tossed was not a responsive partner.
After he changed into his street clothes and shut the lights, he took one last look back at the empty hall, telling himself next time he would foxtrot as that displayed his best moves.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.


Illustrations for Spot 052 provided by mdjb.

March 10, 2012

Spot 033: Revolver

 

TAXMAN
by Michael D. Brown

“Let me tell you how it will be. I’m taking everything, Frank.” She was in one of her raunchier moods.
“Well, if you’ll allow me to be frank,” he said, “There’s going to be very little left to take.” He had been careful about investing vast sums in tax hedges he never told her about, and she was not the brightest star.
Her lawyer was her sister-in-law’s brother, and on his relationship with Marcus he would never be frank. Ostensibly, the two men did not get along, but in fact they did and in an intimate way Lisa would never be able to fathom. Indeed, she never reasoned why he was not contesting a divorce.
He had not counted on Eric, Lisa’s brother, who, although he also gave off dim light, was aware of something occurring between Frank and Marcus, but did not know what to call it, surreptitious though firm backslaps and ass pats notwithstanding.
“The taxman cometh,” Frank now said by way of humorous diffusion, “and he’s going to plow through our savings like Grant took Richmond.”
Lisa, who suffered mood swings, was trying on false eyelashes, and he believed she was already hatching a plan to flirt with the auditor, as yet unseen, and for all the good it would do her, while Frank thought maybe a few baseball games would provide the space he needed to explain to her brother the vicissitudes of friendship and how he would always consider him family no matter what happened.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 

 

ELEANOR RIGBY (MacKenzie’s Tale)
by Sandra Davies

The press got hold of it, of course. I might’ve guessed, mid-August and precious little else in the way of news, but not that they’d take quite so much interest, sending a film crew to the funeral, and then to have turned it into a song, a sort of mini-musical, string quartet backing and all the rest. It was them, the songwriters, who gave her that fancy name, made her sound better than she was. I mean, Eleanor was a queen, Castile, all those memorial crosses Edward I had erected in 1290 or thereabouts, whereas Nelly was little more than the nameless slut she was when I got her.
She was a quick learner, though, I’ll give her that – even at darning socks! – but that wasn’t what I needed her for. Just not always as … compliant … as I intended her to be. And more secretive than ever I gave her credit for.
At least they never found that it was not just her name that was buried along with her.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

I’M ONLY SLEEPING
by Travis Smith

[should join us shortly}

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 


 

LOVE YOU TO
by Michael D. Brown

Each day goes so fast. The mornings, despite my hacking and sniffling, are filled with bright thoughts of all I want to accomplish, which I don’t get round to in spite of best intentions. Then, most nights I stay up too late, noodling and doodling. It’s the twelve hours in between that dissipate like the smoke from one of my too, too many cigarettes. Of course, when I finally work up the energy to do a little housecleaning, I find that again. Everything is yellow with a film I can only imagine has blackened my lungs.
I’m reminded of the baby, little Bobby, who did not reach the age of two. Your mom and sisters finally getting it together to paint the wretched apartment. You had fun all afternoon drawing silly pictures on the walls before covering them over with that pale blue until late in the evening when you put down your brushes and turned off the radio to admire your newly brightened home. Nobody realized, even during his feeding, that Bobby was being asphyxiated by the fumes.
More than one person remarked how long his little body looked in the tiny casket, and how it did not signify when later you gashed holes in all the wooden walls. You have never been right since the loss of your little brother, have you?
I know it’s hard to commit, but I would love you to be here now.
I’m not sure what I should do about all these holes.

 


 

LOVE YOU TO: DIALOGUE
by Gita M. Smith

“Hello?”
“Barb, it’s Madge!”
“Madge? Oh… my goodness. We haven’t heard from you in ages. (Hand over receiver: Honey, it’s your sister.”)
“I know, and that’s why I’m calling! We have so much catching up to do. I’ve been on a retreat with my guru – you remember Sri Dev Hatmankandu – and he told us that we should return to the world after being sequestered for three months in Bangalore – you would NOT believe what passes for sanitation in some places — and to be with family as part of our re-entry.”
“I see…so…”
“SO! I am coming to visit you and Bart just as soon as I can eat solid food again. I caught a teeny parasite over there – all of us did, actually – and I’m almost recovered. My naturopath said it isn’t contagious.”
“Ah, Madge, dear, please hang on a sec while I get a cake out of the oven. I just heard the timer ding. (Bart, she said she’s coming to visit. I don’t know when. When she stops having diarrhea! THINK!)
“Heyyyy, I’m back! It’s so great that you traveled to India. And you know, about the visit? I’d love you to – and so would Bart. But he just, well he surprised me with the Winnebago I’ve been wanting for years and we’re about to hit the open road ourselves.”
“Will you be gone long?”
“Very long.”
“What should I do?
“Just sit tight. We’ll come to you. Eventually.”
“Oh! I’d love you to.”
“Buh-bye.”
“Namaste!”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
by Paul de Denus

Here
Detective Avery marks and bags several bottles of narcotic sitting on the nightstand. His partner Madison cork-fingers and bags the bottle of Jack, the one with granulated residue on the bottom. The woman – one Sarah Hope – has also been bagged and tagged and removed to the county morgue. The bedroom shows no sign of struggle. Her Chevy Vega sits quiet in the driveway; her purse still contains her keys and ID. No sign of cash. No sign of her twelve-year-old son either.

There
is a spew of blood painted on the back seat of the car. DNA is being checked.
There are accusations of abuse – according to the sister-in-law – flags like meth-lab and pill-mill activity mixed in too. The father took off months ago, resides in Little Woods, the next town over. “The boy suffered mightily at their hands,” the sister-in-law says. “Damaged goods.” Detective Avery digests the murder/suicide theory. “Happens all the time. Pill-popping mom kills son… dumps body… offs herself. Only thing missing is a suicide note.” Madison nods, adds, “And the boy.”

Everywhere
perhaps under darkened walkways or bleak alleys is where you’ll find them. Their noses hurt from the self-inflicted punch; didn’t think they’d bleed that much. The backseat blood fest should keep the police occupied for a while. Black thoughts caper and dance. “Momma had it coming… paid hard. Daddy will too.” They begin to walk again, then run, only a half-mile outside of Little Woods.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

THE YELLOW SUBMARINE
by Bill Lapham

When the wind blew and Neptune’s mood was dark, waves smashed against the shore-borne rocks and the spray would reach all the way to the windows of our house. In the winter, the water froze and the view was like looking through a crystal ball — with no future in sight. Not often did we see blue skies at that latitude, but quite often the sea was green as the vegetation it slopped ashore.

Not far away was a submarine base, and on a clear day, I could see them get underway. When the sun glinted off their hulls at just the right angle, the reflection had a golden, almost yellow, glow. With binoculars I could track them until they opened their vents and vanished, as if they’d been exiled for crimes against humanity.
I always wondered how the crews spent their hours underwater, living in a machine loaded with weapons of mass destruction, weapons of total annihilation. How could they live with that knowledge? Would they really launch them?

Once they were out of sight, they seemed to be non-existent. Then, in a different season, they would appear again, inbound, headed for their home port, families and safety. A place where the crew could rest and walk the highlands and think — until the next time they went to sea.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

SHE SAID SHE SAID
by Sandra Davies

‘So, when she told me – and obviously I was completely gobsmacked, felt quite wobbly in myself for a bit, like I did when I saw that accident last week – I told you about that didn’t I? Yes, thought I did, gave me a proper turn that did! Anyway, I said to her, I said, well asked more like, I said ‘Isn’t it about time you told me the truth?‘… my God look at the state of her, no, not that one, the one in the red dress, yes that’s the one, if that’s not mutton dressed as lamb I don’t know what is! … Where was I? Oh yes, last night. Well, yesterday afternoon I suppose it was, it must’ve only been four o’clock, if that, because the football results hadn’t been on and I know he’d’ve shut me up then, he always does, though, as I always say to him, none of it really matters does it, they’ll only be playing again next week, and anyway he always reads them again in the Sunday paper, all over the blooming breakfast table. And it’s only bloody football after all, load of overpaid prima donnas – did you read about that one and those models? It was in last week’s paper, three of them together, and Bollinger and goodness knows what else – more money than sense, obviously. But you’ve only got to look at her that I was telling you about, to know that, although what she did certainly takes some beating.’

 


 

SHE SAID SHE SAID: DIALOGUE
by Bill Floyd

She said: I’m gone.
He said: But why?
You know.
Please stay.
I can’t.
Why not?
My heart.
Oh, that.
Undone.
Can’t be.
Is so.
I’ll change.
You won’t.
It’s him.
It’s you.
Undying.
Unborn.
No choice?
Too late.
Come here.
Fat chance.
Come back.
I’m gone,
she said.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

SHE SAID SHE SAID
by Paul de Denus

She said I was cute. She said I was the best she ever had. She said let’s get married. She said she didn’t want any kids. She said my apartment was too small. She said we needed more room. She said the over-priced house was perfect. She said we should get a new car. She said I should clean up the garage. She said I should put my clubs in the attic. She said she wanted a bigger house. She said she didn’t care for my parent’s attitude. She said she didn’t want my family coming over anymore. She said my friends were immature. She said she didn’t want my friends coming over anymore. She said she was going shopping again. She said she needed a bigger closet. She said I didn’t make enough money. She said I should get a better job. She said the house was a mess. She said we needed a maid. She said she was bored. She said I never took her anywhere. She said she wanted something different. She said she didn’t think she loved me anymore. She said I should move out. She said, “What are you doing?” She said, “Is that a gun?” She said, “But honey-bun…” She said no more.

 

 

GOOD DAY SUNSHINE
by Mike Handley

I’d long buried the memory until a friend, perhaps giddy because he was sitting on my porch wearing nothing but a whiskey sour, felt compelled to remember the first time he disrobed without being self-conscious.

A teenager, he was hunting deer when inexplicably struck with a primal urge to stand naked among trees. His grin was a toothpaste commercial complete with pinging starburst.

“Oh my god, it was so cool,” he said.

To that point, I thought I alone had done such a thing.

I’d been in my mid-20s, afield before sunrise in the middle of an Alabama winter. Around midmorning, fascinated by the play of light and shadows across my clothes and the sun’s warm caress, I took off my many layers, folded and placed them on the log where I’d sat.

I basked for the next half-hour, watching the sun dapple my body, igniting the fine blond hair on my forearms and the coppery thatch at my groin. I wanted to stay that way forever, but the whistle of an approaching train snatched me out of Eden.

Interviewing the police chief not long afterward about a bust in which camo-clad officers had staked out a patch of marijuana in the middle of the woods and caught the grower, wearing only boots, coming to check his plants, I decided I wasn’t so eager to return to my private playground.

“What kind of freak would do that?” the chief asked.

“Beats me,” I lied.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.

 


 

AND YOUR BIRD CAN SING
by Michael D. Brown

Chas spent the summer in London before moving on to the job in Lisle. On his penultimate day in town, he had drinks with Neville, who said although he knew Chas could not pass up the opportunity awaiting him, nevertheless he did not want to call this a goodbye luncheon.
“You’ve got the flat with all a bloke could want, and you’re trusting me to hold it together for you until November. How do you know we won’t hold wild smoking parties and destroy everything?”
“Is that your plan?”
“No. Course not. I’m just saying.”
“There was something else I wanted to ask of you, but I don’t quite know how to put it other than bluntly. Could you keep an eye on Heather?”
“How do you mean?” The fluttering under Neville’s left eye was confirming what Chas had suspected. He had already lost her.
“We promised to keep in touch and all, but, and it’s not as if I don’t trust her, just that she’s so pretty, and popular…”
“And she sings like a bird. Did I tell you I finally got a chance to go listen to her perform at the club last Friday? I know you think we’re not copacetic but I really do like her artistic bent. She’s like one of those beatnik chicks left over from the last generation, and…” Neville was rambling—always a sure sign he was covering up.
Yes, Heather could sing all right, and like a bird she had already flown.

 


 

FOR NO ONE
by Kristine Shmenco

She liked to sing in the shower, and sometimes she liked to practice for her next audition there. He liked to stand outside the door and listen while she entertained herself, hot water fading tepid. He listened to one late-night shower (she’d been out all night with the girls and wanted to wash the smoke from her hair, she said, before bed) and wondered what she was auditioning for this time. The lines went something like “it wasn’t all lies but it wasn’t all love, either.” She hummed through rooms dusting picture frames that were gone the next day and he wondered why she didn’t take the nails, too. He began taking long walks down by the pond in town and wondered why her hand wasn’t in his. Tired of walking, he took long turns at the bar wondering why she wasn’t sitting there, arguing the fine points of some crappy movie they watched eight years ago. He knew where she was. More importantly, she knew where he was, and it was easier this way. She hoped the ice in his glass tasted sweet, thinking about his gentle eyes. She knew he’d be okay the farther away she went and it wouldn’t be her getting smaller in the distance. She left it all in the house and took her convertible one last turn through a neighborhood she would never miss. She was happy for the first time in a long time and felt connected to herself and the sun.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 


 

DOCTOR ROBERT
by Paul de Denus

In his waiting room, the first thing you’ll notice is the upscale décor. The walls are lined with Eames, the single molded plywood type. They fit your body like perfect dentures. A 3-seat black leather sofa occupies the opposite wall and you’ll want to sit there awhile, just to feel it opiate your senses. A Skagen coffee table crouches between the sofa and chairs. It is adorned with picture perfect worlds that offer tastes you can only imagine. The doctor always delivers.

Stephanie will guide you in to the pleasure chair. Above your head, drop pendant lights hang like plucked eyeballs still attached to the optic nerve. You’ll try not to giggle. In the corner of the room, there is an empty dome-shaped birdcage. You’ll imagine a yellow canary on the empty swing singing a familiar soundless tune.

When the doctor appears, his hands will barely touch your face as he painlessly injects your mouth. His small hands will move like those of a mime. Your tongue will tingle as he tinkles the ivories and he’ll polish you off with a tasty minor flourish. His face will be close enough to kiss. He will nod in rhythm as if hearing the soundless music, perhaps the song of the imagined canary.

As you leave, Stephanie will hand you – discreetly of course – a white velvet bag. It’s what you came for, isn’t it? What’s inside will soon have you humming another tune.

 


 

I WANT TO TELL YOU
by Paul de Denus

I’ve been all over the album cover. Oh man, have you seen it? It’s a mixed bag of black and white caricature and photos. Some guy named Klaus Voormann did it. He’s on the far right, in George’s hair. If I’d known they loved this kind of art, I’d have submitted something to their Fan Club. It’s the kind of thing I draw. Ask Mr. Monteith, my art teacher. He’s also my Math teacher but he’s a damn good artist too and let me tell you, he’d know! I’m not knocking this Klaus guy. He’s fantastic! He went nuts on their hair. Shit, I wish I could grow my hair that long. Dad won’t let me – says it’s for girls. He’s having a hard time keeping up these days. But I’ve seen his foot clocking to Taxman.

The photos on the cover look like my dad took them, all dark and lousy. They’re cropped badly. I bet they slapped them together after dropping some bad LSD. The back cover has a dark photo too but it’s really cool. They’re all wearing glasses and paisley and suits and grinning like they’re high except for Paul. I bet that means something. I’ve looked for a revolver in the picture too. It’s probably buried in there somewhere. George looks like he’s holding something. Man, I just wanted to tell you, they’re totally capable of cool stuff like that. They really are.

 


 

GOT TO GET HER INTO MY LIFE
by Gita M. Smith

I live inside a snow globe at a Stuckey’s by the I-70 off-ramp to Torrington, Conn. It takes some getting used to, this life does. Snowglobe dwellers, or ‘Globers,’ as we like to call ourselves, forever have a 360-degree view of the world. Because of the convex curve of the globe’s glass walls, things on the outside look unpleasantly enlarged. A human eyeball approaching the glass surface appears like a vast milky moon with a watery dark center. A hand that grasps us is magnified a hundredfold. Fingerprints leave giant troughs and hills on the surface of our sky where they smear and mingle with other fingerprints.
Like whales, we hear sound waves through the medium of water. Normally, water mutes sounds, but the round walls bounce noise around and magnify it. But I am happy because I’m taken care of by Shelly, the store manager. How delicately and tenderly she picks up my snow globe to wipe away customer fingerprints. She peeks at me and smiles when the snow-glitter drifts down on my head and shoulders. “Well hello, there, little fellow,” she says, as sultry as the dark hair that falls over my world when she bends to dust my shelf.
Tragically, there has never been a successful relationship between a Glober and a human. Yet I hold out hope that someday soon, either she will shrink or I will grow. I long to be with her and hold the hand that holds my universe in its loving grasp.

 


 

TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS
by Nicole E. Hirschi

My senses refuse to focus.
I feel like I’m dying,
forgetting Here and Now,
drifting in dreams of Past,
believing wasted half-truths,
of loves come and gone,
lives spent in the briefest moments
of happiness outdone by sorrow.
Yesterday, I wished-
not for a second of Today
but for an eternity
of what lies beyond
in a world of Tomorrows.

My senses begin to fade.
Dying? But not dead.
Too much, TOO MUCH!
Today’s thoughts of doubt
struck down my reachable goals-
my promises of untold glory
waiting patiently on the shelves
of the ‘morrow.
Remembering Yesterday, I cry.
With back turned
to hide my face,
I give a poor farewell
to Yesterday’s wasted wishes.

My senses try to focus.
Surviving, but confused and hurt.
I try to comfort my heart,
burning for dreams to hold-
even if broken- to mold.
For what doubts festered in Today
will Tomorrow, become Yesterday’s.
Dreading what’s Past, but
scared of the Future,
I live through Tonight to realize
there is no need for wasted suffering
because after Today,
Tomorrow Never Knows…

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.

 


 

Illustrations for Spot 033 inspired by Klaus Voorman and Sandra Davies.

 

December 3, 2011

Spot 019: Smoke and Mirrors

 

UNDILUTED
by Michael D. Brown

How did my clock become adept at sleight of hand? Midnight chimed yet instantly, I noted the italic el of three-o-five. What the hell! The truth in two-hundred-fifty words stared from my laptop’s screen. It could have been taken as libelous, were it not for how my rant nailed our situation in currency. Typed by a dervish, but with immediate editing, a chunky paragraph remained.
Some think I am on top of my game. A few believe I am under it, while most do not offer opinions as to me or my performance. It isn’t magic by any stretch—just a chain of commodious idioms, dull observations effected in deft movements. Alone I worry over taking the front or back seat, but in the heat of the moment, I will almost always step forward and sing loudly. One should never hesitate when it comes to that because you can convince yourself all is hackneyed, trite, and too, too familiar given the bad air. And, too, no reward is forthcoming.
Can complaints become art; does libel entertain; is the Pope catholic when he is on his private throne? Go with your first notion, I advise. I often discover the correct response corrected into negativity, and it distresses me to carry disowned points away from the stage. Do you have any favorites? There’s a tune I’m sure you haven’t heard in a long time. Give me ample space with that last one tucked away, and note, please, I have nothing up my sleeve.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

PARLOR GAME
by Gita M. Smith

Gallantry was his forte. That and a charming total recall of faces and small details that women confided while slow dancing at parties. The second time he met a woman, he’d lean in and whisper, “You are wearing Obsession tonight. I thought White Diamonds was your scent,” or some version thereof.
The woman would be utterly captivated — and utterly sure he was smitten with her. Who else but a suitor would notice her perfume?
It was his favorite parlor trick.
One spring evening, at a party for the Italian ambassador, he was standing by a stunning Eurasian woman in teal blue taffeta. They had met once before (La Scalla-November- intermission-Puccini), and he opened with, “Have you been to the opera since we last spoke?”
She registered no surprise, saying, “I see you have given up horn-rimmed glasses.”
He bent to her beautiful shoulder and murmured, “And you are still wearing Fleurs-du-Rocaille.”
Brushing her lips over his ear she countered, “And you still like Vetiver by Creed.”
“Have you missed me?” he asked, feeling strangely heady.
“Not at all,” she answered. “I keep quite busy.”
“So do I,” he said, “quite enjoyably.”
“Do your lady friends take you to Monte Carlo for the season, or to the Met in Manhattan?”
“Well, no, that’s not how women relate to me.”
“Then,” she whispered deliciously again, “I get the better bargain. Now do excuse me as I must refresh my perfume. I have a wealthy Belgian banker to confuse.”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 

IN A VOID
by Bill Lapham

Hankins and Jenks were in their hole in the jungle, listening. They couldn’t see shit—no stars, moon, campfires, nothing. No light whatsoever. They saw blackness, like blind men in a common grave, alone with their thoughts, maintaining strict communications discipline a long way from home. Human flesh in a void. They heard the sounds of the night jungle. No wind, a drizzle of rain, no respite from the tension. They choked the life out of their plastic and steel weapons, eyes and ears straining to register the slightest deviation from nothing.

“You see that?” one of them asked so faintly it may have only been a thought.

“No,” the other one said, air tiptoeing across his vocal cords.

They were alert, if clinically sleep deprived, but this was no clinic. This was real, for the most part. Minutes or hours ticked by, they couldn’t tell which.

“You see that?” the other one thought he said.

“No,” the first one breathed.

Siamese twins had more privacy than Hankins and Jenks. They had been friends since before the war. They could complete each others’ thoughts. Hold conversations without saying a word. If one suspected trouble in the darkness, the hair on the other one’s neck stood up.

The eastern sky leaked light into the jungle one wave-particle at a time.

“Light,” one said when he noticed.

The other nodded.

They would crawl out of their hole when they could see well enough to make their way. That was the plan anyway.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

ASHES OF A CONVERSATION
by Travis Smith

“You can’t keep doing this.”
“Who are you to judge what I do?” the man asked, turning towards the voice.
“They will catch you and we will all pay the price.”
“This place deserves to burn.”
“Why is it your right to decide?”
“They sit here in their hallowed walls and judge others. It is time for someone to judge them.”
“Burning their church will not stop them.”
“With no walls of isolation they will be forced to see the world outside.”
“They will rebuild it.”
“And I will burn it again.”
“They will catch you and then you will be judged.”
“No. The judgment will be on them.”
“You will …..,” the voice faded as smoke drifted across the mirror.
“See how easily you are wiped away? The smoke from my judgment obscures your image. You think you can judge me, but I have the power to judge, not you.”
“You don’t judge. You destroy,” the voice cracked through the growing smoke.
“You are the one who is stuck there, frozen in glass. You are just envious of my freedom.”
“You aren’t free. You are trapped by hate.”
“LIAR!” the man raged, punching the mirror. “You are weak and now you can burn here in this house of judges and lie in the ashes of their altar.”
The man looked down at his image reflecting in a blood splattered shard of mirror.
“You are wrong, I will be waiting for you wherever you go.”

See Authors page for Travis ‘s bio.

 


 

SECOND TIME AROUND?
by Sandra Davies

In the early days we’re so eager to impress, to be the sort of person this wonderful person (because in the early days they are wonderful, aren’t they, else why bother?) thinks you really are, and when it’s gone on for a bit, then you can’t suddenly announce out of the blue “Well, actually … ” can you? At least I can’t. And I don’t think I suffer any more than most people from self-deception.

So no, I didn’t want to hear the truth from him. Because then I’d have to tell him my truth. And he’d never cope with that.

That said, of course, he won’t be telling the truth. He knows when he’s well off, thinks I can’t see what he’s up to. Which, of course both gives him away and makes me suspicious. And angry.

Oh I admit he’s clever, hides his tracks very well, but whenever someone starts behaving like that, inappropriately, given the circumstances. I always look for a reason. And I didn’t have to look far in this instance.

He was very careful to begin with, very careful, but then he got over-confident. And careless. He should know better than to leave evidence lying around, evidence that I’m perfectly capable of interpreting.
I’m biding my time, but he will learn, when the time is right, right for me, he will learn that he’ll have to be a good deal cleverer before he can expect to run rings around me!

See Authors page for Sandra ‘s bio.

 


 

SMOKE & MIRRORS
by Paul de Denus

“Where did you get the money?” my girl asks, knowing we have none for such luxury. She doesn’t realize I have talents. I can scrum up the scratch for the weed, the cash for the coke anytime. She’s happy to see the stuff on the table – a free ride to oblivion – and her question quickly fades in a cloud of smoke.

How do I do it? Smoke and mirrors; that’s my game. They’re my high, our high. How do I get it? I have a look that’s appealing to some. I’m young and fit, can flash a smile that makes the eager ones quiver though I have zero interest in their needs. They see what they want to see, believe what they want to believe. “You know I’m good for it,” I’ll say, with a wink or a touch to the thigh and out comes the blunt or the whole bag or the ridge of snow on an ice pond and everybody’s happy for a while.

My girl won’t bring up the money subject until we’re way low again and I’ll come up with something to remedy the situation. It’s all smoke and mirrors you see and what’s a little deception when everyone gets what they need in the end.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


Illustrations for Spot 019 still on order.


 

November 26, 2011

Spot 018: Stolen

 

NO RETURN
by Paul de Denus

The mourners are stiff, like dead men awaiting graves, the chapel silent as the closed coffin. I lean into Reggie and voice just how much I think everyone has aged. “The years have not been good for some,” I say quite loudly, observing those hunched over in the surrounding pews. Reggie pokes me in the ribs with a crooked forefinger. “Shhhh,” she whispers, “you’ll wake the dead.”

We lean together under the arch of an ornate wall, next to a nook dancing red and black, the cast of votive flame. Around the chapel, familiar faces – buried under years of time – reveal themselves, old high school ghosts wavering just beneath the surface. We are here for ‘Denny G’ as in Dennis Gable, student voted “most likely to succeed” from our class of 1967.

Denny had been a success, a successful abuser and sadist attracted to the weaker students, those like Reggie and me. After school, he’d quietly graduated to keener sport. Animals disappeared from the neighborhood and then one day, two students went missing. Through the years, Denny went on to steal more lives; he was never caught.

“Here comes the prick now,” Reggie says. We stand and watch Denny climb shakily out of his coffin. What he took from us, we will never get back but there will be a reckoning.
“Time to pay,” I say, as Denny G shambles down the aisle, cold recognition in his eyes as he follows us out, down to a rightful punishment.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 


 

THRALL’S BANE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

None slept. It was easier to get off your knees and go outside to look for survivors. Whoever remained was tended on dirt floors, wounds tied off with rags—the only thing left. No one looked a woman in the eye. No one asked and no one felt the need to speak. Who had the strength to speak (or listen) anyway? The well was checked again for bodies and for once didn’t appear to be tainted. No one looked up to see the sun struggling to rise behind pale curtains. All was blood in the water: Hovels. Fields. Stone walls. Holes in the ground waiting to receive.
The last time they came, they took everything that was metal. If it glinted or had weight it was stuffed in a sack or used to bludgeon anyone whose eye showed a little too much fight. This time they took everything that was wooden-made. There would be nothing left for them to take next time but their bodies, and there were precious few of them now that were slave-worthy. Yet feeding them, keeping them in rough clothes and alive, which was to their minds akin to health, this would become the Viking’s problem. The burden would be lifted from their fathers. Could one fare better in distant lands? No. It wouldn’t matter. Death is death wherever the body falls.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 

 

STEALING SPEED
by Bill Lapham

“Erased?”
“Yes, Professor, someone erased your equation.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Perhaps they stole the equation and hoped you would forget it.”
“But I did forget it. E=m something, I think.”
“C?”
“Da, Si.”
“No, Professor, I meant ‘c’, the constant, speed of light.”
“Oh.”
“Was the equation E=mc squared?”
“I told you already. I forget. Besides, I’m not so sure nothing is faster than the speed of light anymore. Could be neutrinos are faster.”
“You think a particle could be faster than a photon?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, son. The only thing that matters is the truth.”
“The truth?”
“Yes, son, the truth.”
“Fuck the truth, Al, I wanted to know who stole your equation.”

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

GEOLOGIC TIME
by Bill Floyd

There is a clock at the heart of the world, and it is winding down. Man created the measurement of time, but not time itself. Time is proof of God, because nature bows to time. We are allotted a fleeting, infinitesimal begrudgement of moments, and then we are outside of time, dispersed, nanospurts in the inky black. Time is the most valuable of all possessions. I stole time from you. I stole with lies and I stole with laziness and now my time is at an end. The worst of all the sins I ever committed is the time I took away from you, watching your smile dim from that flashpoint to which there is no returning. Take my hand. The alarm is set.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 

A HYMN FOR THE AGES
by Robert Crisman

Religion is passed off as DNA Gospel by Pharaohs and Pimps and all other Priests, their main tenet being, “A man is a man and a woman a woman, and never the twain shall meet—though when they do, the man rests on top.”

Babies unborn have that pounded into their heads via drumbeats unleashed by their mothers’ unease in the womb.

Kim and I reached for heaven, a chemical-spiritual eon away, our struggles made sticky by hellish ambitions, mine the desire to take my place among men in the Pharaoh’s Valhall, hers the deep need to have Beauty possessed, as treasure or pillage, though in this land where wealth is a hunger, the difference is surely semantic distinction.

Self-contradictions, those unavowed, mandate the donning of masks in the Passion Play, truly, yet flesh and blood dictate an honest accounting and death to all gods that pose in the mirror your vain hopes have fixed to the walls and the ceiling and floor.

A Theban elegy, Death of a Marriage, 3,000 BC: “A husband walks out the door to go get some smokes—in Memphis with young Nefertiti…”

I pillaged and walked out the door as fear and shame made a grab for my throat…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.

 

 

KISS
by Grey Johnson

Wondering whether to use a tissue
the back of her hand
or her sleeve
She feels the leftover taste
of what once was warm and kind
and hides to wipe her lips
Thinking the next time she will turn her face
at the last second
to make it look like it was just an accident that
He missed her mouth

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

MILITARY MISAPPROPRIATION
by Joe Gensle

“State your name, rank and unit, please.
“Sergeant Ike Petrie, A-Company, First Battalion, Fifth Special Forces, sir.”
“What’s your military occupational specialty?”
“Three-hundred-F-one-Zulu-forty, sir.”
“And what is that?”
“Special forces medic, sir.”
“Why are you here, Sergeant??
“Sir, as a character witness for Sergeant Robinson.
“LeShay Robinson is a friend or acquaintance of yours?
“No, sir.”
“So…you treated him at sick-call, or something?”
“We don’t do sick call, sir, in-garrison medics do.”
“You have no connection to Robinson, but petitioned to testify!??”
“Sir, my connection’s obvious: I eat in his mess when I’m in from the bush.”
“So you know you’re eating stolen food?”
“Sir??”
“Robinson’s charged with 32 counts misappropriation/diversion of government property and black marketeering–and you’re testifying to his good character!??”
“Absolutely, sir.”
“For a thief, Sergeant Petrie!”
“For selfless soldier, sir. He traded booze rations, even mine…stuff we didn’t need for fruits and vegetables we did, on the local economy. so we could be healthy when we got our asses shot-off. He did it –not for personal gain–for men who execute the missions, sir.”
“You aided and abetted with your booze-ration coupons?”
“And would, again, sir. Five-fifths of booze a month would kill me; Robinson kept me and the team healthy.”

I was fined $200 and busted-down a rank, the only green beret medic corporal in the army. Despite 14 years’ honorable service, SSG LeShay Robinson was reduced to buck private, sentenced to 10 years hard labor at Ft. Leavenworth, and dishonorably discharged.

[This actual event has been fictionalized and names changed. There were 43 enlisted men, like Petrie and higher, who testified as character witnesses in an effort to effect leniency in the courts-martial sentencing–J.G.]   See Authors page for Joe’s bio.

 

 

REAL AND IMAGINARY
by Travis Smith

I was new in town, doing my best to start a new life. Today I tried “the other” coffee shop that was farther from my office. I settled in, taking a breath of the morning air, then she came. She was walking, mumbling to herself. No one else was paying attention to her. She saw me watching and turned from her slow walk. She was pretty, and well dressed, but I could see that something was not right.

“Stolen!” she yelled, quickening her pace, becoming visibly frantic. “Gone! No one will look. Please help me!” She stared into my face with unfocused eyes, clouded with a delusional craze, before spinning in a circle repeating her initial word, “stolen”.

Unsure what to do I smiled, “What was stolen?”

Her eyes locked onto mine once again and for a moment the haze cleared, “My baby, they took her. Please help.” Sadness filled her eyes and a tear rolled down her cheek. Then she stood and walked away, mumbling to herself again.

“Her baby wasn’t stolen,” the man at the next table said. “She died during childbirth and the mom lost it.”

I watched the woman for a moment, my own memories flooding over me. A tear rolled down my cheek as I recalled the pain of piecing a shattered soul back together. “Maybe so, but I understand. The baby took a part of her soul and until she finds that no one can hep her put it back together.”

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 


 

THEFT TAKES MORE THAN THE THING ITSELF
by Sandra Davies

David switched his phone off, took Susy’s phone from her and turned that off too.
‘Time for us …’
‘Christ, David, it’s not exactly quality time is it?’
‘No, but it’s our best chance so far. And I’ve waited long enough.’
‘Long enough? It’s barely four days.’
‘That’s at least three days too long.’

When Paul discovered that both phones were switched off his instinct was to return as quickly as possible, despite knowing that anyway it would be too late.

Unsurprisingly, he was monosyllabic with her. Equally unsurprisingly, she was silent, certainly not happy with her behaviour nor the effect it was having on him. Retreating to the bathroom she allowed herself, briefly, to cry. Wondered why.
Paul noticed her red eyes. Stopped what he was doing and stared at her.
‘Either he didn’t and you’re feeling rejected or, more likely, he did. So you are either regretting it now or it was crap. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know, but I would appreciate it if you refrained from totally humiliating me and continued to behave as a wife while we are on this ship. Being cuckolded is, I am surprised to learn, just as painful even when it is pretence. Presumably because it reflects on one’s self-esteem. It is also ill-mannered and thoughtless. I hadn’t expected such behaviour from you, Susy.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 

TAKEN
by Michael D. Brown

My director sat stony-faced, asking, “What was taken this time,” in a tone I found offensive and soon felt justified when she followed up with, “That’s another thing I don’t understand. In my whole life, I’ve never been robbed.”
Exactly, I thought, you are thirty-eight, and you don’t know how it feels, and yet you sit and pass judgment, ready to castigate the victim. In my forty-seven years in New York, I had likewise never been robbed. As the word trailed away my head was reviewing what else had been lost. At semester’s beginning she and I had seemed to have a rapport that now was a memory.
Admittedly, my ill-timed excursion to Seattle had made re-establishment of good graces nearly impossible, but I felt, too, the thieves had been responsible for the loss of more than just my dignity.
I noticed cracks running spines on every wall like a Batuz photo. Apparently to her the school was the be all and end all of her interest. I had a life, or rather, believed I had had one before my fourth robbery.
Perhaps I was still being naïve, but I didn’t think so. I would say to people after living in Mexico for ten years, I was beginning to know the drill, yet did not want to believe my adopted country was rife with the corruption everyone back in the States talked about.
Difference in our ages all too apparent that afternoon, she was unnecessarily bitchy, and I felt taken.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

Illustrations for Spot 018 adapted by Michael D. Brown.

 

November 3, 2011

Spot 015: Unwritten Rules

 

POST-PRANDIAL CONVERSATION
by Sandra Davies

Antagonism had escalated throughout the meal. Zoë had been put in mind of a couple of large dogs meeting in the street, suspicious territorial sniffing, noses then anus and bollocks, stiff-legged, tails upheld like … like mediaeval pikes, that was it. The ugly bloke a boxer, the other a longish-haired, what they called ‘yellow’ retriever perhaps? And neither wife up to firmly holding the leash, nor well-enough practised to have yet got them trained, for all they looked so competent, assured.
Bernard had feared that Zoë might have become even more intimidated by the naked antagonism of the two men, which had fast escalated into something only a whisker away from physical violence, before one of them stood up and dragged his wife away causing, throughout the dining room, a whirlpool of well-bred eyes to fast-avert, but her eyes were wide with shocked delight.
‘I didn’t know grown men – and they certainly are grown men aren’t they? – could behave so badly! What was that all about?’
He thought over the conversation. ‘It started with some remark about privilege didn’t it?’
‘Yes – True Blue soup spoons or something …’
‘And then, somehow, they got onto religion.’
‘Oh God, yes, that remark about two-faced fucking Christians!’
‘Which just goes to show they’re right to say you should avoid those topics at the dinner table’
‘Well, at least they didn’t get round to sex.’
‘No – but that was what they were fighting over.’

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 

 

TALKING BALLS AND STRIKES
by Paul de Denus

That’s nine balls in a row. Nine! I respond with my favorite gesture: Jesus splayed on the cross with burning mad dog eyes. The ump -Ray Charles- whips off his mask and glares back, mouthing words I don’t understand. Walter, my catcher has taken off his mask too and is calmly talking while nodding to me. I throw in a scream, “you like d’ balls very much azhole?” That gets the ump – Helen Keller – walking my way, allowing old coach Hardwick to move like a fever out of the dugout to head him off.

I don’t see the problem. In the country I come from, language is part of the game, the passion expressed. It is life! Without expression, there is nothing. The crowd seems to enjoy the performance. I listen to their cheers and jeers. The umpire – Stevie Wonder – is standing in front of the plate looking over coach’s shoulder and asking me what I said. “Your mowder enjoys the donkey,” I respond and flail my hand in a fisted pumping motion. The crowd erupts as the ump – Salvador Pena- returns the favor by giving me the out-of-here thumb jerk. He is from a country like mine and plays our game well. He continues to bark at coach Hardwick who has picked up the passion by arguing the strike zone. Nine balls for God’s sake! I’ll show him balls! The next two he sees will be mine, as I unzip and show him my striking pair.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.

 

 

CHASING TYNSDALE
by Bill Lapham

The trail went up for fucking ever. They put one boot down in the mud and tried to put the other one down just ahead of it. That way they made progress up the mountain up the mountain up the mountain.
Pounds of sweat would not evaporate. Under the noontime sun it was too hot for helmets and too dangerous without them. Shirts smotherstuck to their ribs; pants chafed the tender skin around their testicles. Sweat trickled down their legs and filled their boots. Wet socks made blisters.
Tynsdale hoped the guy on point was paying attention because he wasn’t.
A shot nobody heard bored a hole in a tree next to Carter’s head. He pulled a splinter out of his cheek and it bled.
Lucky bastard, Carter, Tynsdale said. Carter nodded.
The lieutenant decided to get off the trail, climb the mountain through the bush, hacking ahead inches at a time with machetes. The soldiers would be exhausted when they reached their objective but exhausted was better than dead.
We can sleep when we die, somebody said, but we ain’t dyin’ today.
He was wrong. He was always wrong.
The last thing Tynsdale heard was a metallic click. The last thing he saw was white. The last thing he felt were his legs going wobbly and the last thing he smelled was cordite.
Half the platoon spent hours retrieving the pieces of Tynsdale while other half provided perimeter security because they understood, the rule was: nobody gets left behind.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 

 

RULE
by Kristine E. Shmenco

You recognize them. You know what they are when somebody trespasses on them. In my 15695 days of living, the occasional fool comes along and says the unspeakable and breaks the unwritten rules.

When a kid does it we slough it off because they’re still learning the rules. “Mommy, you’re THAT old?” Your insides grit a little and you chuckle and pat junior on the head and hope nobody’s looking too hard for liver spots and smile lines, never mind the crow’s feet. Or, “Mommy had a little accident with wine so she’s not feeling very good this morning,” you hear your dear one tell his grandma. Now there’s a gut clencher if ever there was, and you wish everyone was old enough to zip it and stick to the unwritten rule: Thou shalt not discuss thy hangover for it makes thy shame multiply.

Grownups (also known as spouses and partners) definitely know the rules, but once in a while they cross the line. DON’T ask the question if you DON’T want to hear ‘It’s winter and I don’t HAVE to shave my legs if I don’t wanna, or until it’s time to wear SHORTS, whichever comes first!” Hopefully our partners never cross this line: “Put that pizza down, I thought you said you were on a diet?”

But we, in our infinite wisdom and grace, would never break the unwritten rules. We’re perfect, after all.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 

 

DON’T TEASE THE OLD PEOPLE
by Travis Smith

The old woman sat on a box in front of a rusted metal door. She watched as one of the roving gangs crashed through the gates and listened to the screams as they moved through the compound.

The law had forsaken the deepest parts of the city. That’s not to say they didn’t have rules. They were just enforced in different ways. The more law-abiding residents tended to police themselves. Most of their laws dealt with loyalty to their communities. Steal from your neighbor and you would be thrown out. It was that simple, and here in the depths getting thrown out was not good.

Outside the isolated communities the gangs ruled, roving in groups terrorizing anyone they found, occasionally attacking one of the communities. There were no laws for them, might made right, but even they knew to follow certain rules.

The gang moved quickly, intent on getting out with what they could before a defense was mounted. One stopped as he ran towards the gate, looking at the box the woman was sitting on.

“No, leave the old woman alone,” another yelled, but he was already moving, crude sword slashing at her. His arm jarred to a stop as her thin hand, moving faster than he could see, caught the blade. Her head cocked to the side as she stared at him, unblinking eyes reflecting like mirrors. He didn’t try to pull his sword free, just turned and ran, his screams added to the chaos.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 

 

YOU ONLY GET ONE QUESTION
by Gita Smith

Her husband said to meet him at a diner. He was a middle-aged tugboat on swollen ankles. He’d come with an attitude. Cuckolds always do. They never consider why their wives go looking elsewhere for pleasure.
“Jesus, how old are you?” he asked.
“That’s a boring question,” I said.
His eyes were kidney beans wrapped in dough.
“I mean, if we’re talking numbers, how much do you weigh? That could figure into this.”
“Listen, you,” he snarled. “Who the fuck do you think you are?
“Sorry pal,” I said, “you only get one question here at the exit interview corral. The answer’s 26.”
I remembered my first exit interview: he was some shitbird lawyer who’d found my number behind the visor in his old lady’s Lexus and demanded a meet-up: Saturday morning, Country Club.
Husbands come to these meets all bowed up for a bush-pissing contest. That’s the only playbook they know.
But I don’t play by those rules. I showed up in full androgyny theater: high-heels, eyeliner, leather.
Shitbird’s eyes went neon. “What the hell was your number doing in my wife’s car?”
“She must have put it there.”
And then I split.

If the guy wants to fix things, he should be asking wifey. Not me.
And if he’s asking wifey questions, there’s only one to ask.
Not, “who’s this guy?” Or “how long have you known him?”
The only one that matters, the one she wants to hear is, “How can I make you happy?”

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 

 

RUDIMENTS OF MAN-LAW
by Joe Gensle

“Does this dress make me look fat?”
“Do these pants make my ass look big?”
“You wouldn’t want me to not be on birth control, wouldja Dad?”
“Isn’t my mother’s meatloaf delicious, honey?”
“These shoes were $299 but I got them for only $179! Aren‘t they cute!?”
“My parents have invited us to go to the cabin with them for 10 days. Isn’t that exciting?”
“See, Dad? Brendan’s piercings were’nt as bad as you thought thought, were they!”
“What do you think about going out and looking for some new furniture for the living, dining and family rooms?”
“I like me with a perm! What do you think?”
“If I took golf lessons, do you realize how much more quality time we could spend together, honey?”
“So how many women have you slept with?”

“Chapter III – In Decades 3-4“, from Rudiments of Man-Law: “There cometh a time to practice for the inevitable, to quelleth change of facial expression, to knoweth when a prevarication sinneth not, and to recognizeth when one must standeth on thy lips with the boot-strength of a thousand armies, all ye appendaged with penises.”

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.

 

 

THE RULE OF PAJAMAS
by Michael D. Brown

When we first lived together, Amy would wear my unused tops and I the bottoms; I had six pairs. On good nights, we went to bed without arguing and would watch a comedy before dropping off early. We had killing jobs then, she as an insurance broker, and I as amanuensis to an alcoholic writer (I’m not going to mention his name, but you’d recognize it if I did). On other good nights, if she came out of the bathroom in a negligee, I’d discard my bottoms, slide naked under the covers next to her, and there would be no television.
One night, after having traded barbarous words then experiencing silence for an hour, she exited the john with a scowl that begged not to be questioned, and was wearing her own cotton pajamas, top and bottoms. The TV stayed off, with no Friends in evidence. Although next morning we were speaking civilly again, lunched together that afternoon, and an incident appeared to blow over, nevertheless, a rule had been established.
Amy worked at four different firms in the following years before opening a small advisory business of her own. Apparently, too beautiful for some codgers to resist making a play, when she became agitated, I would randomly be subject to the rule. After the drunk died, and I began writing my own as yet unpublished books, randomness was removed. Television has not been watched in months, and I haven’t felt silk or lace in I don’t know how long.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

All illustrations for Spot 015 supplied by Michael D. Brown.

 

October 27, 2011

Spot 014: Modern Fables

 


by Gita Smith

A fox moved her den close to a pleasant farm with a chicken house. She prowled the perimeter every night, seeking a hole in the fence or a wayward chick who’d wriggled through the wire. She had three kits to feed, and poultry was their favorite food group.
One evening, during her usual reconnaissance, the entire flock broke through the fence. Chickens by the dozens were ba-kawww-ing frantically as Bard Rocks and Rhode Island Reds ran helter skelter.
“Why are you all amok?” asked the fox, concerned about rabies and other contagions.
“There’s a fucking HAWK in the coop,” shrieked a dowager hen, “and it’s eating all the Banties and chicks.”
“I’ll fix that!” the fox said, and she rushed the coop with bared fangs.
Moments later, she emerged with a limp hawk in her jaws. The hens thronged the coop to survey the damage. But the rooster, always well-mannered, bowed to the fox, saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. How can I repay you?”
Fox pondered this main chance and said, “Would you trade me that plump dowager hen for this tough old hawk so that my kits can eat well tonight?”
Rooster grew very sad, for he knew that graciousness required him to say yes. He hated to sacrifice one of his own, but he was smart enough to know that a fox makes a better friend than an enemy.
And that, children, is the way of business in the world: It’s all about accommodation.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


 


by Sandra Davies

To begin with, before he saw that, no matter how she tried to hide it, she was besotted with Guido, Eric had assumed Penny was there, at those long, lazy meandering Sunday night meals, because of him. Eventually he told her that she was wasting her time. ‘You’re way out of his league – he only goes for posh girls, and always Venetians – rich bitches, daddy’s money and daddy telling them to keep their legs crossed. And you know why don’t you?
‘Why they keep their legs crossed?’
‘No, you silly girl, why he always goes for the money?’
‘… I suppose it’s what he’s used to, he’s obviously from a rich family.’
Eric laughed, nastily. ‘Likes to give that impression doesn’t he? Truth is very different – he needs it to keep his family afloat – literally.’
Penny wondered whether Eric laughed nastily – high-pitched, giggly – because he was nasty? He certainly wasn’t nice: overweight, permanently pink and shiny, like naked Turkish Delight after someone’s licked the icing sugar off, but what he said rang sufficiently true for her to back off, too well aware of her poverty and her lack of sophistication.
Later, five years too late, she learnt, from Guido himself, that he had never been rich, that Eric had lied to and manipulated him as much as he had her, that they both had underestimated him. Soon after, Guido was dead, but not before giving her the wherewithal to exact revenge.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


 


by Bill Lapham

The hawk dove out of the sky and snatched a fish out of the water. Flapping its wings hard to regain altitude, it was making headway when a bald eagle, attacking out of the sun, swooped down and thumped the hawk in the head with its massive talons. Shaken, the hawk dropped the fish and veered off toward the safety of the forest. Meanwhile, the eagle dove for the water and grabbed the stunned fish before it could swim away. Pumping hard to gain altitude like the hawk had done, it flew to its nest at the top of a telephone pole on the other side of the lake. The eagle screeched before biting into its lunch.
Jake heard the eagle’s echo on the other side of the lake as he fought to bring a vigorous bass to the surface. When he got its head out of the water, he grabbed it by the gill, hauled it up and pulled the hook out of its mouth. Just then, Frankie, Jake’s friend and the guy who owned the bright red bass boat with the two hundred horsepower Merc, punched Jake’s forearm, made it go numb and caused Jake to drop the fish back in the water. Frankie scooped the bass into a landing net, reached in and pulled out the fish.
Frankie was smiling. He was very pleased with the size of the fish. “Jake, quick, take our picture,” he said.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


 


by Travis Smith

He had learned early in his life to cherish what he had because death was always around the next corner. It wasn’t easy though. He was small and not very strong. He was smart though. Not book smart, there were no schools in the depths of the city, but smart, and eventually he had made his way out. When the war broke out he had realized it was his path out of that hell and over the course of the war his brain, and seniority as the death toll climbed, had propelled him to higher and higher ranks. Now he stood in front of his men, veterans alongside new recruits. His heart heavy as he looked at them, knowing he was about to send a few to certain death. One recruit caught his eye and recognition opened doors in his mind.
His mind drifted back to that time before, the time that seem like an eternity of death in hell. Back then he tried hard to stay out of trouble. Tried to stay hidden and beneath notice. It hadn’t always worked. One group in particular had been the bane of his existence. They sought him out. Tormented him. Some days he got away. Some days he didn’t and the sounds of their laughter still haunted him.
Looking back at the new recruit a smile lifted the corner of his mouth. At least he would not feel bad about one of the deaths.

Based (loosely) on “The Heifer and the Ox.” See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 


 


by bolton carley

Out for a big night in the national park, Patty Porcupine and Porsha Peacock were single and ready to mingle. They’d spend hours prepping. Porsha had feathered her plumage 80’s style while Patty needled her endlessly about her ‘fro of epic proportions.
“You know I earned every colorful feather I’ve got!” Porsha pointed out.
“Oh, I know who you slept with to get ‘em, alright!”
“You have no room to judge, Patty. Someone’s not exactly quill-less even with that prickly nature of hers!” Patty’s cacti-like coat raised sky-high in fake dismay.
“Whatever. Let’s just get going before the good ones are taken.” Patty bristled.
“Don’t act all pious. You know what I always say, ‘we is who we is and we be damn proud of it!’”
The discussion continued as they made their way to the campfire. Porsha started strutting her stuff the minute she saw the opossums hanging around and heard the owls hooting comments. Patty was right there with her, parading around like she owned the place. Even the frogs were chirping about them until Sasha showed up.
Porsha glared at the competition. “Damn that Sasha!”
“I know.” Patty agreed. “Look at her – matted down, cloaked in black with her one white stripe from head to toe. What kind of statement is that?”
“Exactly. I can’t stand her and her nasty ass perfume.”
“Me, either, but the males sure don’t seem to mind.”

The moral of the story: Appearances are often deceptive. See Authors page for bolton’s bio.

 


 


by Kristine E. Shmenco

Little Creature slept on Father’s chest and was content, but one evening, Little Creature awoke, thrilled—amazed—spellbound by the glow and the lights of his brother Duskbird, and wanted to take his place. He pushed off Father’s chest and asked, “May I wear those lights like Duskbird and settle the world to sleep?” Father Blowing Rock said, “Dear one, no! You are my singer, my sweet Storyteller, and no one can replace our Duskbird.”
Little Creature had no form, no shape, and struggled to know his place in everything. Certainly he sang greater than any, and told tales that made the moon stand still until Father set the moon free. But Little Creature had no form and wanted very much to be colorful, loud, and beautiful like the stained glass Duskbird. Little Creature scuttled about, trying to figure ways to impress Father and astonish Man. Father Blowing Rock knew what was in Little Creature’s heart and did nothing to stop it. A creature will be what they will, as water flows its way down the easiest path.
One day, Little Creature crept up to Duskbird after a long day of calling, and he gladly (proudly?) told Little Creature about its songs and his inspiration. Little Creature pounced and tore the wings from Duskbird, wrapping the stained glass warmth and beauty around itself. When Father learned what transpired, he transformed it into a songless creature, placed him upside down in a tree and abandoned him to his disobedience.
Little Creature, humbled, watches us from branches and scribes our hearts. Beware what he tells Father Blowing Rock…

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 


 


by Amy Hale Auker

I’ve spent my life carrying donkeys, eating the goose that laid my golden eggs, petitioning Juniper for a better master.
I’ve underestimated the slow and the steady, hurt myself with hate, deemed the high grapes sour.
I’ve gathered and stored and sung and danced, hoping to find a balance between fun and drudgery.
“We are not wise, and not very often kind,” says another poet, and so each day dawns brand new.
I will celebrate the parts of you hidden from the common view, until the time is right to spread your wings, and I’ll bundle my sticks together with yours, say “ha!” to a world that would break us.
I’ll drop pebbles into the jar until we can quench our thirst.
But nature does indeed exceed nurture, and so I will again need your stories, your fables, your songs, to remind me that I am a mouse in need of a king.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.

 


 


by Michael D. Brown

Lion had been the General Director for a number of years, and everyone at school was pleased working under his regime, but the time had come for him to retire and write scholarly papers as his legacy. All the animals were called to a junta wherein he announced his successor should be elected.
The Cow from Accounting, taking minutes, assumed it would be she, but being demure wouldn’t ring her own bell, and was hoping the Director’s secretary, a Fox, who knew the Cow’s moods, would speak on her behalf.
When the Bear who taught Philosophy nominated himself claiming he could make ethical decisions, and then the new Rabbit intern piped in with the need for a fresh point of view, everyone noticed how she nervously thumped her foot in time to her words, and the Parrot, who had been around as long as the Lion, brushed his still colorful plumage repeating their words backed with a thumping sound of his own. He did this after each nomination. Eventually, he was elected. It seemed Parrot had qualities similar to all the other animals combined, making him the obvious choice. Relieved to have come to a quick decision, the animals ended the meeting and went home early.
Not three months later, when the school was in deep financial difficulties requiring firm action, and the Parrot’s only response was, “I should be Director, aarghk, because I can make ethical decisions, thump, thump, thump,” the animals realized what deep shit they were in.

The moral of the story: Think quick. Where have I heard this before? See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


 

All illustrations for Spot 014 supplied by Michael D. Brown.

 

October 6, 2011

Spot 011: In the Wee Small Hours

 


IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS
by Gita Smith

I was telling Ralph – you know my brother, right? – the other day. I said, “I can’t get a good night’s rest. I wish I could sleep like a teenager again.”
Well then, of course, he launches into a whole megillah about his insomnia – it’s Ralph after all – with acid reflux this and restless leg that. Whatever you have, he has worse.
If you told him you had a neck tumor, he’d tell you he’s got stage four brain tumor.
So anyway, I can’t sleep for nuthin’. It’s driving me nuts. We have a TV in the bedroom, but if I turn it on, I’ll wake Estelle.
It’s 1 a.m., then 2, then I hear noises in the attic. My balls itch, and I worry about the bedbug epidemic. I tell you, insomnia can make you a lunatic.
Then I get this idea. I’ll go in the den and call Ralph. If he’s sleeping while I’m tossing, that puts the kibosh on his long-suffering act. No more one-upmanship.
If he’s awake, hey, we can talk about the Phillies’ chances in the World Series.
So I call, and after six rings he says, “Benji, I was out on the deck. I have terrible insomnia — for two days, now — my blood pressure’s in the tank, we have bedbugs and there’s a rattlesnake in the attic.”
I can’t win with that guy. My one satisfaction is that when I die, the miserable little shit will die too. Just to show me.

See Authors page for Gita’s bio.

 


MOOD INDIGO
by Joe Gensle

He spilled his story, sat lost in thought before the psychiatrist recalling how he got there. ‘Other guys’ wives run off with cops but they don’t get sick with ‘Mood Indigo,’ Melvin pondered.

His friend, Gabe, pleaded, “You need help, Mel!” on seeing the apartment trashed, the coin collection strewn about, learning Melvin abandoned his bowling team, lost the vice presidency of the model train club. But the goldfish and hamster, dead of starvation and stinking forced an intervention.

Dr. Engvaldsson asked, “You say ‘Mood Indigo…‘ because it was a cop?!”
Melvin brightened, “Classic case! I read it on WebPsychHelpLine. Mood Indigo’s a condition of jilted spouses experiencing devastating consequences from extramaritals with cops!”

The psychiatrist retorted, “Jilted? Your wife’s sexual appetites changed, you didn’t buy-in…don’t like rough stuff, dress-up, or bondage. Might that drive her into the arms and handcuffs of that so-called ‘kinky’ cop?”

Melvin blanched, teeth clenched, freed his stare to glance at photographs behind the doctor’s desk.

“You’re selfish, own your consequences. It’s pity-potted depression, not ‘Mood Indigo.’ Build a bridge. Get over it!” chuckled the blonde doctor.

Adrenaline launched Melvin over the desk, grabbing the letter opener in a clumsy lunge, but he missed. The blade angled into Melvin’s own over-aged baby fat.

Melvin’s blues were actualized in a navy blue prison uniform (for attempted murder). Prison foreplay inflicted purplish-blue bruises, his rape occurring in a checkered-blue tiled shower, ignored by blue-shirted guards. The infirmary was blue. Blue like the eyes of Engvaldsson’s children.

See Authors page for Joe’s bio.

 


THE ADDICT’S HUN
by Elliott Cox

“Aww hell, son, it ain’t gonna hurtcha none. You been doin’ bidness with me for, what now? Damn near ten years? Hmph. You got it figgered boy, shee-it, ain’t hurtcha before now, right? Ain’t gonna hurtcha now, un hunh. Not now, not never. All ya gotta do is…ahh, yeah, that’s it. Feels good, huh?

“Nnhhahhh.”

“Yeah, I know it hurts at first; it should hurt sometime, keepya modest, ya know? But it don’t take long to…hah! Got it already, didja? Mmm hmm, thaaaas why you keep comin’ back, right? Cause I makeya feel good, right? Makeya feel like you ain’t jus a tree in summer, coverin’ itself up, feelin’ like nothin’ but part of the forest. Naw, that ain’tchoo, friend, that ain’tchoo. You live the fall, right? You live the life, you drop your leaf’s an’ say check it out! This is me! Look rycheer! This is ME goddamnit! I ain’t jus another tree in the forest! Well, thas whatchoo should be doin’, anyway. Your own thing…hmph…be nice, right?

“Hey. HEY! You listnin’ to me? Nah, you out…guess you ain’t heard a word I said, didja? Hmph. Look atcha…feelin’ it, ain’tcha? Getchaself up, son. Longer ya let me enya head, longer Ima be enya head. Wake up, boy, ‘fore I putcha to sleep for good.”

See Authors page for Elliott’s bio.

 


I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL
by Nicole E. Hirschi

To A Jeffrey McKibbon:

I’ve forgotten you, just like I should – no more newspaper articles about your victims, no more angry letters, or my house being egged – yes, I’ve forgotten you, just like I should, of course I have.

Your letter came, and I had to ask my husband if he recognized your name. In a hurry he snatched the letter from me and threw it in the flames of our pre-winter fire. Flames licked and caressed the envelope until it consumed all of its contents. I stared at my husband’s face, questioning, until he finally answered, “It was from your son.”

A thousand memories flooded. Who was I to kid the moon, thinking I could forget you with years of no more tears. My hands trembled. I picked up the phone to call, as I had done so many years ago, to talk to you, my child, my son.

The number to the prison would not come to mind. I could hear the dial tone turn to those annoying beeps and placed the phone back on its receiver.

Why I’m writing this to a crazed murderer, who claims to be my son, I’ll never know except perhaps that I’m a fool.

Your letter, if read, would probably have broken my heart in two, so for now, I write to ask do not send anymore – for I’ve forgotten you like I should, of course I have.

I get along without you very well.

-Your Mother
From times long past

See Authors page for Nicole’s bio.

 


DEEP IN A DREAM
(alternate lyrics)
by Mike Handley

Whiskey-voiced crooners
Under hats with short brims
Serenade while your lips leave prints on the rim.
We clink to good times, to spooning, to woo,
While I’m deep in a dream of you.

The fresh smell of washed hair,
Your scent on my hands;
The mingling of toothpaste, cigarettes and glands;
Eyes closed, yet registering the smoky hue;
When I’m deep in a dream of two.

We later swap leads on the floor and indeed,
No bounds for our passion remain.
We dance on the ceiling,
Our love is reeling,
Heat shared by the gliding insane.

I awake with a gasp, a shudder to sparks,
Mourn images fading,
It’s no longer dark.
Now a rudderless ship, afloat with no crew,
Plowing deep in a dream of you.

See Authors page for Mike’s bio.

 


I SEE YOUR FACE BEFORE ME
by Amy Hale Auker

I see your face before me. And I see it all over my past. For years I ran my fingers gently over the lines beside your eyes, smoothed your mustache, felt the lines in your forehead deepen, touched you behind your ears where we usually never feel the fingers of another.
I am not allowed to touch your face anymore. I am not allowed to hear your voice. You told me that we can’t be friends because you know how I smell.
I pull the Coors Light box down out of the closet and riffle through the flat images that represent our past. There you are looking young, so lost… why didn’t I see how lost you were back then when you stole that boot jack from the boot shop, shoving it into the 18-inch tops when the boot maker wasn’t looking?
There you are looking strong and proud and found, holding our infants, striding toward adulthood. There you are looking responsible and … tired. There you are looking like a peacock in always new clothes, while I look smaller and smaller by your side. I don’t remember how you smell.
Now I go to facebook to see you, and you look a little desperate, aiming toward the biggest fun, the loudest laugh, constant and always movement, that promised new love who has yet to appear, yet to stay, and you so desperately need someone to stay.
I see your face before me, but your heart is hidden from sight.

See Authors page for Amy’s bio.

 


CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?
by Kristine E. Shmenco

I got my head in my hands and arms on my knees, just sitting here. Nobody knows why I’m just sitting here (but they do because you know how it goes in the city though your eyes are on pavement you still see everything that goes on. I hear the scuff and click of heels going by; men in black suits and gold bracelets with women on their arms that radiate vanilla and they know I’m here and haven’t a care why, so long as I stay and behave on the stairs.
There are three ways to get around things, and that’s all I’ve been doing: Getting around and getting by and I tell myself that’s why nobody’s coming around. I don’t need anybody coming by, after all.
What I need is you. I want you back here, sitting next to me instead of before or after me. I need to hear you complain and carry on, and I want to wake beside you wondering how you could get so inside of me. You took the best and left the worst of me…of us. Friends is not what we’re made of, and we would never know how to behave. I don’t want to be friends, darling, I want us to cling like enemies and fight our way down from this mountain.
But tonight this place where we stood is empty.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.

 


FIRST BLOOD IN DREAMS LONG AGO
by Robert Crisman

The endrocine system of dreams allowed my lost love one last turn, wreathed as she was in blue smoke in the old gutted building on Third as I stood transfixed in a doorway and waited. She wore her black hair as a crown that haloed her pale aristocrat’s face, skin tight over bone, from which she’d conjured a mask of indifference.

She smoked cigarettes, and I knew that she waited as I did.

I saw her nerves chewing, and maybe she waited on me. To save her? I felt lust in that doorway and lust is not rescue, yet also I felt an ache stirring, an ache that I’d felt through 10 lifetimes, an ache that had made me jump, dance, and sing to the music she played from Day One, when I saw that our sins would rule us, hers etched with scalpels, mine written on water…

My tears are silent, unshed, dried to dust now—as if I could match her indifference and then bleed her that way and then walk away, free at last from the fear that took hold of my throat the red night that we ripped at each other and she bled me first, then gave me to know that First Blood will last ‘til the end of my time here on earth.

I wait—hoping she’ll break? Yes, and bleed. I can go to her then and wrap her like smoke, pull her free…

See Authors page for Robert’s bio.

 


WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
by Bill Floyd

Damn right, it’s pure. That’s about all anyone knows for sure. A sweep of the leg, springcoils of smoke past her eyes, the careless flick of the ash. It is not what we make of it, but we are most certainly what it makes of us. That smolder, the clarinet’s seduction. Frank asked the Lord up in heaven above, and the Lord said it’s a crazy little thing: a mood, a time of morning, a face, a dance. The hardest heart will not break it, the craftiest mind will not outwit it, and the most lofty morality will not survive it without compromise. This bared shoulder at daybreak, this everlasting night. Love is that thing that beckons your gaze, corners your thoughts, and demeans your aspirations. Your plans mean nothing to her, but she might have time for a song. Love strings spiderwebs between the stars, binding silverfire throughout the coldest emptiest dark. Love charts infinity: You are here.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


LAST NIGHT WHEN WE WERE YOUNG
(a tribute to Frank Sinatra)
by Brian Michael Barbeito

Everything was there. Absolutely everything! But it was not known that we were in the sea that could do no wrong, or a world unto itself that had only electric magic and intensities untold. You know, we were waiting and waiting- on a soul level- for such a thing to come true, to come alive- it is no secret that that is what everyone longs for. And the night- eons and eons had preceded us- but the night at a time like that is new- it is the first night of the world in fact. Hair and cheekbones, gait and smile, eyes full of Gnostic secrets shining and they are dark diamonds. The city is not so bad after all, and two spirits traveling through time recognize one another and something meshes, melds. How is it that you run your fingers through your hair? How is it that that you are like the good serpent? How is it that you could have walked through the world and the inhabitants of the world not knelt in reverence and awe? But there is something else- after a circle is drawn there is only a moment- and then the circle must break apart. The other one- the wiser one- said, ‘You two will now be apart- practically forever- the allure was too intense- and now the universe will even it all out.’ You don’t get to be young forever- far from it.

See Authors page for Brian’s bio.

 


I’LL BE AROUND (Alone Together)
by Ed Dean

A casualty of the mind often goes unseen.
The yellow buff brick apartment building that Suzie occupied was reasonable for her needs. Her unit was decorated with an eclectic flair, somewhat like Suzie’s personality.
Late in the peace of the evenings was the only time Suzanne and I ever communicated.
“Suzanne?” The gentle stillness of her mind made me comfortable. Pushing herself back into the plush couch, she closed her eyes and spoke.
“Hi, are we on speaking terms again?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Oh I guess I thought you were mad about the drunk I pulled on you the other evening.”
“You know I was there but with all that alcohol, I couldn’t speak. You do that to me all the time. I thought we were best friends. Why do you shut me out like that?”
“You’re just going to learn to take care of yourself like I do. Sit back and enjoy the ride!”
“Come on Suzanne, you know we’re better than that! We could do great things together. Why aren’t you trying?”
“Knock it off! It’s me not we. I’m into fun and that’s all. I’m going upstairs to see Bobby; he knows how to have fun. Honestly, you bore me sometimes. You want to come along?”
“Suit yourself; you always do”
The full dark straight hair that framed Bob Boyce’s long slender face made his large sleepy eyes more pronounced. It seemed to speak to his sexuality. His ruddy pock marked face added strength to the perception.

To read the rest of this story, click here. See Authors page for Ed’s bio.

 


ILL WIND
by Bill Lapham

Sam Merit picked up a rock, felt its heft, rubbed its smooth surface with his callused thumb, and considered his situation. The sky had turned black in the southwest.
“Fucking supercell,” he said in a phlegmatic voice.
He leaned his thin frame to the left to ease the weight off an old wound on his right and pulled a dirty hanky from his pants pocket. He slid his ragged hat back on his head and wiped his weather-beaten face. He felt the hanky scrape against the stubble of his beard, wiped the grit from the deep furrows around his eyes, and spat.
He stuffed the hanky back in his pocket, dropped the rock and pulled out a flask. He removed the cork and drank a mouthful of whiskey. His eyes watered as his belly warmed.
A quick look around revealed nothing but open range.
Sam was a dowser hired to look for water by a wealthy developer with plans to build a resort spa in the middle of nowhere. He had found the middle of nowhere, but not the groundwater, yet.
He had confidence in his methods which relied more on his pappy’s old hickory divining rod than science. If it was there, he would find it. He had felt water in the rock.
Just then, an ill wind blew and Sam couldn’t get low enough to protect himself. He was never seen again, but his diving rod was found stuck in the earth over a bountiful freshwater aquifer.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.

 


20:35 HINDSIGHT
by Sandra Davies

We’d moved in a couple of days previously, and even at seven I knew that my mother hated this raw-edged bungalow in its builder’s wrack of a rock-strewn earthen plot, knew that my father’s tangible tense anxiety as we arrived, crammed into the cab of Patterson’s green pantechnicon, had been justified, although even now I don’t know to what extent she had foredoomed it.

And when, a couple of afternoons later, this younger-than-my-mother woman came tripping across, glossy black curls vivid against scarlet blouse, bare feet in scuffed and worn-flat shoes and a crinkle-eyed, chipped tooth smile, introducing herself as Maureen, in an accent I later learnt was Black Country but then saw as exotic(!), and clutching an album of her wedding photos to show us, I was charmed by her friendliness, thinking her kind and welcoming, and increasingly embarrassed at my mother’s off-hand disinterest, at the minor hostility she exuded. With what seemed ill-mannered haste my mother ushered her out, and turned to me with some derogatory remark, speedily enough for my encouraging comment to be clamped.

Only now do I recall that exactly twenty years later it was my turn to repel the advances of a would-be friendly neighbour. This one had tripped from further, her smile was far less innocent and disappeared completely when she saw that our furniture was impoverished and mismatched and that we had not yet put carpets down. Only now do I wonder how my children judged the tolerance of my behaviour then.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.

 


HOPE AND WATER
by Travis Smith

What is that? Water I guess, but why is it forming circles on the ceiling? I want to stand and look, but I can’t move…Is that someone calling my name?

I know I hear someone calling, but I can’t remember if that is my name. I try to call back, but no sounds come out.

I remember other things. A woman. I can see her smile. My hands recall the feel of her hand resting in mine. I can see the soft curves of her body as those same hands, now limp at my side, trace them gently from head to toe. I can remember every detail about her, except her name which I can’t recall any more than my own.

I hear the voice calling again. It’s a woman’s voice. Is it her, or is it just my mind playing tricks to give me hope?

I am tired and I should rest. Maybe if I did I would be able to move when I wake up, or maybe I will still be stuck here, wherever here is, and the hope will be gone. I think I will stay awake, watching as my hope floats to the ceiling and dances in the watery circles while I think about the woman I remember dancing with under the soft glow of the moon in some other place and some other time. The details are not as clear as the image of her, moving so gracefully, entwined with my soul.

See Authors page for Travis’s bio.

 


1955
by Michael D. Brown

“Married two years, of which we’ve spent eighteen months separated. You hardly see the baby, and won’t acknowledge the one on the way. Couldn’t expect you to, not being certain it’s yours.”
[click] Love has lost its meaning and so have the stars.
“Remember how you never wanted to play this new Scrabble game,? I wasn’t trying to embarrass you, Red. I’d forgotten you never learned to read.”
Nothing’s what it once used to be.
“Went to the movies with a girlfriend and couldn’t believe when the kids jumped up to dance to Rock Around the Clock. Never saw anything like that before, and wanted to join them. Would have been difficult with this big belly, but still, I had the yen.”
Song birds say it’s spring. I don’t believe them. “I’m not the teenager I was.
“Churchill resigned, but I have a feeling he’ll be back.
“They’re taking down the Third Avenue El. That we’ll never ride again.”
Once love was king, but kings can be wrong.
“A program’s coming on the television called The $64,000 Question. What I wouldn’t give to have a go at that, even though I’m not smart enough to win anything big as you’ve told me often enough.
“It’s a new age. The War’s been over for ten years, and it’s about time for a change. We’re all due for a hearty laugh.”
A smile will help hide the ache in my heart. [click]
“It’s late, and I was wondering if you’d stay tonight.”

To read the rest of this story, click here. See Authors page for Michael’s bio.

 


THIS LOVE OF MINE
by Grey Johnson

The dew has fallen and the air has grown gentle in the dark. She is wearing no shoes, and only her lover’s cast-off shirt, which she slipped on in the bathroom. As she creeps out the creaky storm door onto the porch, without any light or eyeglasses, she very nearly misses the top step. Pausing to catch herself, she tries to think of a reason she could give for being outside so late, barefoot and wearing a strange man’s shirt, to her husband who remains inside sleeping, should he wake to find her missing from their bed. No good lie comes to mind as she steps out onto the grass, and looks up to see not a single star. Above her is just a soft ceiling of cloud tinted by streetlamps, as familiar now as it was before sunset. The risk she has taken by sneaking out into the yard, half-clothed, in the middle of the night, to seek a simple shining pinpoint seems foolish. There is only one way to wish, she realizes, on a night such as this, with no stars flickering hope. She reaches out, her arms reflecting the branches of the tree standing sentinel in her yard. Reeling inside, she opens her heart to the wide hiding sky, and aches to trust, above the clouds, all the glowing bits of light she cannot see.

See Authors page for Grey’s bio.

 


 

All tracks for Spot 011 suggested by and / or adapted from Frank Sinatra’s 1955 landmark album
In the Wee Small Hours.